Tony Knoble: Repeal of EED would threaten downtown’s progress

Keywords Opinion / Viewpoint
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2024 is poised to be a record development year for downtown. The city closed out 2023 with more than $9 billion of new development in the pipeline. We’re seeing new life, energy and investment planned for downtown after a few challenging years post-pandemic.

Not coincidentally, we’ve also seen improved services downtown, formalized with the recent creation of the Mile Square Economic Enhancement District to fund dedicated cleanliness and public safety efforts in the heart of our city. Unfortunately, the Legislature is considering a repeal of the EED, threatening to end these services and risking the progress and momentum we’re seeing downtown.

The EED is a funding mechanism to provide dedicated support to the Mile Square to tackle issues like cleanliness, security and homelessness—issues that have plagued our city center in recent years and negatively impacted quality of life downtown. It operationalizes a Downtown Indy Inc. pilot project that has been delivering enhanced services to property owners for several months, including 24-7 cleaning crews dedicated to trash pickup and graffiti removal, use of security technology and outreach to individuals experiencing homelessness.

These services are contributing to a cleaner and safer downtown, bringing more foot traffic to the Mile Square, and inspiring confidence in the future of our city. It’s part of the reason we’re seeing a wave of development, and more people living, working and visiting downtown. According to Downtown Indy Inc.’s 2023 Community Report, nearly 29,000 people now live downtown, an increase from 25,000 in 2021.

The EED will ensure that these needed services continue by providing an ongoing source of funding to support the Mile Square. Other downtowns across the country use funding models exactly like this to provide an increased level of service in specific areas to better serve residents, attract investment and compete. Efforts like this signal to developers that their investments will be protected. While safeguarding investments is a priority for developers, it’s renters who reap the rewards. The Mile Square EED’s cleanliness and security initiatives ensure peace of mind and a higher quality of life for everyone who calls downtown home.

Our firm is proud to be part of the development momentum the city is experiencing. Our team is leading the renovation of Old City Hall, bringing in a 21c Museum Hotel, restaurant, condos and apartments as part of the Alabama Redevelopment project. For a relatively small investment in the EED, we can help provide a stronger level of service and support for our residents and tenants.

Other projects in the queue for Indy range from hotels and residential properties to sports and entertainment venues to arts and culture amenities and mixed-use, commercial facilities. This includes the long-awaited announcement of the redevelopment of a Mile Square icon-turned-eyesore—Circle Centre Mall.

These, together, are transformational investments in our city. But they will not be successful without a strong downtown core where people want to live, work and visit.

The downtown business, sports, arts, culture and not-for-profit communities that rely on a thriving city center are aligned in our support for the Mile Square EED—not to mention the thousands of workers and residents who will benefit from these services. The Legislature heard hours of testimony detailing that support, with only a few voices in opposition.

The General Assembly itself approved the provision authorizing the Mile Square EED just last year. Reversing course now and gutting support for the Mile Square jeopardizes the progress we’ve made, threatens current and future investments, and sends a chilling message to all who want Indy to succeed.•

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Knoble is CEO of TWG, an Indianapolis-based development firm.

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3 thoughts on “Tony Knoble: Repeal of EED would threaten downtown’s progress

  1. Nice job, Tony. Those of us that live and/or invest in our downtown fully understand. Then, we have people that may never step foot in our downtown voting to repeal this. It’s the same thought as road funding. Just doesn’t make sense.

  2. While I appreciate the enthusiasm for downtown development, the proposed Mile Square EED raises serious concerns. We’re already overtaxed and overcharged for services. Increasing fees under the guise of progress may not attract the desired foot traffic – it might just drive people away. Let’s focus on efficient use of existing resources before burdening taxpayers further, or even better have developers foot the bill.

    1. Indianapolis is a low-tax, low-budget city; just $1.6B for nearly a million people over 400 square miles (by comparison, Minneapolis has a budget of $1.8B for half the population in 54 square miles). We’re at the end of “work with what you have,” it’s time for dedicated resources.

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